First-born Feiru children are dangerous. At the age of magical maturity they will permanently move into compounds established for both their and the public’s protection. These compounds will be known as the Asylums for Magical Threats (hereafter abbreviated as “AMT”).
—Addendum, Article III of the Feiru Five Laws, July 1953
After five long years of searching, Jaxton Ward was finally going to see his brother again.
Or, at least, that was the plan.
His brother Garrett was being kept inside the mountain under his feet, inside one of the most secure AMT compounds in the world. Getting in was going to be difficult, but getting out was going to take a bloody miracle. Especially since he’d had to barter with his boss for the location of his brother. In exchange, he had promised to rescue not just Garrett, but one other unknown first-born as well.
Taka—one of the three men that made up Jaxton’s team—signaled that he was ready, and Jaxton gave their mission his full attention. He’d let his brother down once, and he wasn’t about to do it again.
Jaxton nodded for Taka to begin.
Taka reached a hand to the north and drew on the elemental earth particles in the air. Within seconds, the earth of the mountain started to move. As a tunnel opened in the side of the mountain, Jaxton took out his Glock and flicked off the safety. He was the only one on the team without elemental magic, but he didn’t see that as a disadvantage.
He could take care of himself.
Kiarra Melini stared at the small homemade shiv in her hand and wondered for the thousandth time if she could go through with it.
She had spent the last few weeks trying to come up with an alternative plan, a way that could save the other prisoners without having to harm anyone. But despite her best efforts, she’d come up empty-handed.
To protect the lives of the other first-borns inside the AMT, Kiarra would kill for the first and last time today.
Not that she wanted to do it, given the choice. But after overhearing a conversation between two AMT researchers a few weeks ago, she knew that the AMT would never again be safe for any of the first-borns while she remained alive.
The outside world might have forgotten about them, but that didn’t make them any less important. Kiarra was the only one who cared, and she would go down fighting to try and protect them.
Even if it meant killing herself to do so.
She took a deep breath and gripped the handle of her blade tighter. But before she could raise her arm to strike, her body started to shake. Kiarra closed her eyes and breathed in and out until she calmed down enough to stop shaking. Ending her life—noble as her reasons may be—was turning out to be a lot harder than she’d imagined.
Mostly because she was afraid to die.
But her window of opportunity was closing fast—the AMT-wide meeting would end in less than an hour. After that, she would have to wait a whole other month before she could try again, and who knew how many more first-borns would suffer because of her cowardice.
Maybe if she recalled the conversation between the two researchers—the one that forebode the future harsh realities of the other AMT prisoners—she’d get enough nerve to do what needed to be done.
It was worth a shot, so Kiarra closed her eyes and recalled the conversation that had changed the course of her life forever.
Strapped to a cold metal examination table, Kiarra kept her eyes closed and forced herself to stay preternaturally still. The slightest movement would alert the researchers in the room that she was conscious again, and she couldn’t let that happen. Not if she wanted to find out the reason why the researchers had increased her examination visits and blood draws over the last two weeks.
Most AMT prisoners wouldn’t think twice about it, since they’d been conditioned to not ask questions. But Kiarra had gone through something similar before.
The last time her visits had increased with the same frequency, the AMT researchers had stolen her elemental magic.
Since then, no matter how many times she reached to the south—the direction of elemental fire—she felt nothing. No tingling warmth, no comforting flame. She was no different than a non-first-born, yet she was still a prisoner, unable to see the sky or feel a breeze, and forced to live in constant fear of what the guards or researchers might do to her.
Of how they might punish her.
Dark memories started to fill her mind, but then the female researcher in the room started to speak again, which snapped Kiarra back to the present. She listened with every cell in her body and steeled herself not to react.
“Interesting,” the female researcher said. “Out of the ten teenagers, nine of them still can’t use their elemental magic, just like F-839. Dr. Adams was right—her blood was the key to getting the Null Formula to work.”
It took all of Kiarra’s control not to draw in a breath. Her serial number was F-839, and all of the extra blood draws now made sense—the AMT was using her blood to try and eradicate elemental magic.
male researcher spoke up. “They’re going to start a new, larger test group in a few weeks and see if they can stop the first-borns from going insane and/or committing suicide. If we don’t get the insanity rate below ten percent, then we’ll never be able to implement this planet-wide.”
“Don’t worry, we’ll get there. We have a few million first-borns to burn through to get it right.”
Kiarra opened her eyes and embraced the guilt she felt every time she thought about what had happened to those poor first-born teenagers.